Japan rugby got another big boost this past weekend with the Sakura 7s team regaining their spot on the Women’s World Sevens Series thanks to a 22-10 win over South Africa in the final of the qualifying tournament.
The result was particularly timely as the Land of the Rising Sun hosts the net leg of the six-tournament series in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on April 22-23.
The event makes the first time Japan has hosted a leg of the women’s circuit and will give coach Hitoshi Inada a good chance to see how his team compares with the 11 core teams.
“The Kitakyushu Sevens comes at an exciting time for rugby in Japan,” said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont. “Rugby World Cup 2019 is less than two and a half years away, while the sport has never enjoyed such popularity with record participation and fan-base growth. I would urge all sports fans in the area to go and experience the excitement of world-class international sevens.”
Japan will face series leaders New Zealand, the winners in Dubai and Las Vegas, as well as Russia and France in Pool A.
Olympic champions Australia will face Fiji, Ireland and Brazil in Pool B, while Pool C sees Canada, the United States, England and Spain go up against each other.
“We are ready to take on the best in Kitakyushu in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, said captain Mio Yamanaka.
Japan went undefeated in Hong Kong (including two wins over rivals China) and Inada praised his team’s efforts.
“We prepared to run flat out in our six games over the two days and that is how things turned out,” he said.
“We proved that we deserve to play against the best teams in the world and now we have our sights on the Tokyo Olympics.”
Things didn’t go quite so well for Asia in the men’s qualifying competition with hosts Hong Kong knocked out by Germany in the quarterfinals.
A length of the field try by Bastian Himmer in the closing seconds proved to be the difference between the two sides
“We didn’t keep the ball. We got a little bit excited, we tried to force things and there were three turnovers in our possession,” rued Hong Kong coach Paul John.
Meanwhile, on the men’s series, Japan closed out their weekend by beating guest side South Korea 36-7 before downing Wales 28-21 to finish 13th.
Story By : Rich Freeman